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Rhythm & Views

Loose Fur

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Jim O'Rourke is a special kind of man--the kind that makes things happen! Fans of Smog, The Sea and Cake, Gastr Del Sol, Sonic Youth and, coincidentally, Wilco (you'll get it in a second) know him for his lush and melodic composing and production techniques. He also put out one of the most overlooked albums in 2001, Insignificance (Drag City) featuring, coincidentally, Jeff Tweedy and Glen Kotche. In short, O'Rourke is, in the words of RUN-DMC, "like King Midas/As I was told/Everything that he touch/Turns to Gold."

Jeff Tweedy is known to many as "that guy in Wilco who wrote the songs on last year's landmark album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" (produced by Mr. O'Rourke). Jeff Tweedy also has the Midas touch: He turns records to gold.

And don't forget the drummer! Glen Kotche is a drummer, a very, very good one, so good that he plays in Wilco as well as Jim O'Rourke's band. (Last coincidence, I swear!)

Loose Fur (as in Lucifer, get it?) is the first--and hopefully not the last--collaboration of these three fine fellows. Incestuous? You got it.

Tweedy and O'Rourke trade vocal duties on the first two tracks, "Laminated Cat" and "Elegant Transaction," while playing guitar, bass and keyboard on just about all the tracks. These, along with "You Were Wrong" (which is a dead-ringer for a YHF outtake) are great songs. It's just that they sound as if our guys are taking turns backing each other up on the others' songs. An album full of this could be a bit of a let down when you're talking about heavyweights like these guys getting together. Luckily, it gets way more interesting.

"So Long" finds O'Rourke delivering his own style of despondent lyrics while the listener's attention is drawn to Tweedy and Kotche's avant-noise noodling.

"Liquidation Totale," as the title may suggest, is an exercise in meshing terse and relaxed melodies into a very workable instrumental. This culminates in the lengthy closing track, "Chinese Apple." He creates a foundation for beautiful melodies and experimental meanderings to take place, while Tweedy puts it to bed with a soothing delivery few others can pull off as genuinely.

All in all, the sum of Loose Fur is an extension of its parts, and one that ends up forming a new whole. Wilco and O'Rourke fans alike should find this a nice accompaniment to their collections.

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